A long history of violence against Native people has led to the disproportionate disappearance and murder of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Families and communities are left devastated, often shattered and disjointed. The stories are heartbreaking and come from every corner of North America. As a Native woman, an aunty, my own family has a missing relative. It has been nine years now, and I know firsthand how helpless it feels when a sacred child—oniijaanisan— is missing from where they belong.

Every person, every woman, girl, two-spirit person, deserves to feel safe in their community. Our people deserve to have their cries for help heard. Violence against Indigenous people is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades, especially when it comes to investigative resources, gathering testimony, and building data.

On April 1, 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced in a press release, “the formation of a new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.” The unit will work toward resourcing the investigation areas with federal agencies.

This new effort, again led by Native women, provides our communities a spark of optimism.

As we learn about the real issues that Native people face today, we better understand the action, and we can respond with resources. People oppressed by colonization and ongoing trauma must expand capacity, power, and authority—for we are strong and resilient and worthy of support. On this National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, I ask that you travel up the river with us to understand the systemic problem.

Read the full article about Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls from Native Americans in Philanthropy.